1. Mandy (2018) – The most Metal movie of all time. When Nicolas Cage axe-murders biker demons & religious acid freaks in an alternate dimension 1980s, Mandy is headbanging party metal, a blood-splattering good time. In its quieter moments it also captures a stoned-and-alone, crying over past trauma to doom riffs version of metal, where the flashes of fun & cosmic absurdity are only reminders of how cruelly uncaring & meaningless it can feel to be alive.
2. Black Swan (2010) – Darren Aronofsky amplifies the supernatural horror undertones of the classic ballet industry melodrama The Red Shoes to a giallo-esque fever pitch. A terrifying (even if familiar) tale of a woman who’s controlled & infantilized in every aspect of her life to the point of a total psychological break, confusing what’s “real” and what’s fantasy onscreen in the most unsettling way.
4. Raw (2017) – The debut feature from director Julia Ducournau is one of the more wonderfully gruesome horror films of the decade, but it’s also much more tonally & thematically complex than what its grindhouse marketing would lead you to believe. A coming-of-age cannibal film about a young woman discovering previously undetected . . . appetites in herself as she enters autonomous adulthood, Raw is incredibly delicate & subtle, especially for a remnant of the New French Extremity horror movement.
4. Knife+Heart (2019) – This is fantastic smut, especially if you happen to enjoy classic slashers & gialli. Picture Dario Argento’s Cruising. Set against a gay porno shoot in 1970s Paris, Knife+Heart really turns the usual male gaze & female victim empathy of those genres on their head in a fascinating way. And it only improves on repeat viewings as its psychedelic flashback imagery and its Goblin-inspired synth soundtrack from M83 sink further into your subconscious.
5. The Witch (2016) – Simultaneously acts like a newly-discovered Nathaniel Hawthorne short story, a “Hansel & Gretel” type fairy tale about the dangers of the wild, a slice of Satanic Panic folklore, and an impressively well-researched historical account of witchcraft unmatched in its eerie beauty since at least as far back as 1922’s Häxan. Despite its academic nature and Puritan setting, this film will make your skin crawl with dread. Every frame is elegant and haunting, transporting the audience back to the 17th Century and tempting those along for the ride to question their sanity.
6. Upstream Color (2013) – Shane Carruth’s mind-control whatsit might be the most impressively edited film of the decade, considering how it communicates an exponentially intricate sci-fi narrative through a jumble of disjointed imagery and yet its basic outline is crystal clear for every minute you afford it your full attention. Its closed loop of human connection & subhuman exploitation is a deeply weird trip for as long as you allow yourself to remain under its spell.
7. The Florida Project (2017) – Captures a rebellious punk spirit that laughs in the face of all authority & life obstacles among the children who run wild in the extended-stay slum motels just outside the Disney World amusement parks. The Florida Project doesn’t dwell on or exploit the less-than-ideal conditions its pint-sized punks grow up in, even when depicting their most dire consequences; it instead celebrates the kids’ anarchic energy and refusal to buckle under the false authority of adults.
8. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) – Tilda Swinton & Ezra Miller square off as a combative mother-son duo in a cerebral chiller about the scariest, least noble crises of parenting. A convincing argument could be made that any one of Lynne Ramsay’s movies are her career-best, but this remains the clear stand-out for us. One of the great works about the horrors of motherhood.
9. The Favourite (2018) –It turns out an 18th Century royal court is the exact right setting for Yorgos Lanthimos’s buttoned-up, emotionally distanced mockery of “civility,” whereas it often feels alien or robotic in his more modern settings. The jokes fly faster & with a newfound, delicious bitchiness. The sex & violence veer more towards slapstick than subhuman cruelty. The Favourite is Lanthimos seeking moments of compromise & accessibility while still staying true to his distinctly cold auteurist voice – and it’s his best film to date for it.
10. Annihilation (2018) – A beautifully terrifying tale of life, death, rebirth, and the trauma that haunts us throughout it all. On one level, Annihilation is just a visually gorgeous, weirdo monster movie that reimagines Tarkovsky’s Stalker with a pastel color palette & more traditional genre thrills. On a deeper level, it’s a powerful reflection on how grief & trauma transform us into entirely different people, to the point where that change becomes physical & irreversible.
-The Swampflix Crew